United Explorer Card: 60,000 Free Miles and Free TSA PreCheck or Global Entry

If anyone plans to travel in the next 5 years, this card is quite a deal:

  • Free TSA PreCheck/Global Entry for 5 years
  • 60,000 free miles (at least ~$480 worth of flights)
  • 2 lounge passes
  • Priority boarding – so you can board before all the overhead space is taken
  • 1 free checked bag per flight for both you and a companion
  • Primary car rental insurance
  • No annual fee for the first year (after which it can be cancelled or you can call their cancellation line and they might give you a second free year)

I rarely get new cards, but couldn’t pass this up. My wife and I recently used it to get through the TSA lines in under 5 minutes. We also used the free checked bags benefit.

I don’t know if this has anything to do with the card, but we got to the baggage claim late, and found United’s baggage claim workers actually guarding our bags and car seats for us.

One last nice thing: United’s miles no longer expire, so you don’t have to worry about that either. What a deal!

Siena Cathedral

If you ever get the opportunity to visit Siena, Italy, check out the magnificent Siena Cathedral:


It’s a seriously impressive church built in medieval times.  Inside, you’ll find the chapel of Saint John the Baptist and numerous works of art, including some from Bernini and a  young Michelangelo.

Depending on whether you go during peak tourist season or not, admission is either free or around 8 euro.  Recommended!

Sunset in Arcos de la Frontera, Andalusia, Spain

I took this photo on the winding streets of Arcos de la Frontera, in the Andalusia region of Spain.  Love the streetlight glow reflecting off the cobblestone walkway:


In many places throughout town, the streets are so narrow, you’ll need to fold your car’s mirrors to fit.  It’s a challenging drive, as locals will whip around corners in their cars and come up behind you suddenly.

It’s worth going though.  There are many beautiful churches and castles high up on the cliffs of this town, along with excellent tapas and friendly people.  You may even come across a falconer.  (We did, and it was great fun holding his powerful birds of prey.)  I’ll save that story for another post.

View from a Cable Car in the Alps, Mürren, Switzerland

My wife and I visited Mürren a little while back and it was a fantastic experience. Welcoming, friendly, and hard-working people. Our toddler was with us too and didn’t get the slightest hint of altitude sickness.

For anyone worrying about cable car safety, it’s actually better than trains and planes. The few serious accidents I read about had to do with the cars being used in improper ways, which we definitely did not do. Lots of fun and very safe!

From Wikipedia, emphasis mine:

Mürren is a traditional Walser mountain village in the Bernese Highlands of Switzerland, at an elevation of 1,638 metres (5,374 feet) above sea level and it cannot be reached by public road. It is also one of the popular tourist spots in Switzerland, and summer and winter are the seasons when Mürren becomes busy with the tourists; the village features a view of the three towering mountains Eiger, Mönch, and Jungfrau. Mürren has a year-round population of 450, but has 2,000 hotel beds. Mürren has its own school and two churches, one Reformed and one Roman Catholic.